Some unsystematic notes, to be taken with a grain of salt:
- Out of the fifty discoveries, thirty-eight are feature films, the other twelve a mix of TV dramas, anime, and one variety show. Simply put, they are all works of cinema, at first classified as separate media, but pointing towards concepts that are cinematic. Cinema finds itself in an unexpected corner when it is embodied in the clunky but raw close-ups of K- and J-drama land, in emotions exteriorized in the shapes and colors of anime, or in the unpredictable swerves from fiction to documentary to blooper reel in a game show. Too bad I had no room for music videos or video ephemera (like the Elisa Lam video: the scariest film of the year?). We should be taking that phrase “everything is cinema” more seriously; end of the year lists could be so much more fun.
- The highest ranked feature film on this list is a film I’ve seen before, but watching it restored on the big screen amounted to a whole new visceral experience. Great rewatches are always new viewings. Nevertheless, the other three discoveries ranked ahead of this film stand head and shoulders above everything else I’ve seen this year. Yes, they are not films.
- Melodrama was the clear winner for 2013. Never had a cinephile project going this year
- though that might change in 2014 - so my viewing was scattershot at best but somehow I always came back to melodrama. The intensity of feelings, the clear-cut oppositions of good and evil, rich and poor, dead and alive, the frenzy of forces, the tragedy and catharsis - the world of melodrama was a testing ground for how affect is circulated, passions transformed, love born, through images, characters, and stories. K-drama was my opening to this inferno of desire, a place where the action is always at fever pitch, where there is no regard for subtlety (subtlety is for wusses!) or realism, perfect for a guy like me who has yet to learn how to distinguish real emotional impact from honeyed sappiness (or are they not opposed in the first place?). Along with the young adult fiction of anime and the salaryman romances of J-drama, melodrama seems to suggest that affect comes first before everything else, and that to me is what is so fascinating and addicting about it.
- Another finding from my scattershot viewing is the importance of context. It may not help in the reevaluation of certain films, but it gives a better social understanding to them. To know where a film, with its codes and conventions, comes from is a question which been has too easily been shunned nowadays, especially with films that are far away (i.e. non-American or non-European ones). Watching K-drama made me realize how ingrained melodrama is to their forms, but it would be a film from Kim Ki-young called PROMISES OF THE FLESH that showed how far this tradition goes back, and now watching the silliness of the unfashionable Park Chan-wook and his Vengeance Trilogy makes a lot more sense, and OLDBOY, a film I hated in the past, actually worked better with this framework in mind (still not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but a decent one at least). I want more of these experiences, where the viewing of a film you haven’t watched provides a different framework for something you’ve already seen, enriching both works in the process. Ah, cinephilia!
- Cinephilia is at its most boring when it’s all about which auteur is in and which auteur is out. You don’t like Haneke; you’re cool! (I don’t like Haneke; I’m cool). But who the hell is Stan Latham? Not an auteur I bet, but he made BEAT STREET which is some kind of urban masterpiece. So more non-auteurs and non-auteur films, please. Meaning: somehow we need to discuss the greatness of these films without reverting back to auteurist categories. Meanwhile, the only thing organized in this year’s viewing was watching Hou Hsiao-hsien films (yes, auteurism!), and he strikes me, along with Ford and Ozu, as one of the best directors in expressing the multiple contact points between the personal and the political, the subject and History. In other words: a Master. And in more words, it just confirmed to me that the Taiwanese New Wave is my favorite moment in all film history.
- Watching so many films by auteurs and non-auteurs alike had me speculating on how many great films we’re missing out because their brilliance does not come from a stylistic signature, a clear mise-en-scene (ALL films have mise-en-scene, ok!), or any category that Serge Daney or Tag Gallagher wrote about (we can’t live without you two!), but from their messiness, their complete unawareness of any “rules of cinema”, their ACINEMA. Hoping to substantiate more of this, but I’ll say TEENAGE HOOKER BECOMES KILLING MACHINE is an example of this kind of film, where intermediality plays a bigger part than mise-en-scene or montage, and the only way to talk about this film is to move away from any traditional mise-en-scene criticism.
- Cinephilia is defined by its hunger. There are a thousands of films that are masterpieces, but unfortunately we haven’t heard of them yet. “I want more!” is the cinephile’s mantra.
- Quote of the year: “We aren’t doing anything for society.” “What society? We are society.”
- from Patrick Tam’s NOMAD.
Screenshot of the year
To the list:
50. spring waltz 20 episodes 2006
49. red garters george marshall 1954
48. kimi ni todoke 25 episodes 2009-10
47. ex press jet leyco 2011
46. documentary of akb48: show must go on eiki takahashi 2012
45. gushing prayer masao adachi 1971
44. you and me fritz lang 1938
43. the tall t budd boetticher 1957
42. my boss, my hero 10 episodes 2006
41. quick billy bruce baillie 1971
40. city hunter 20 episodes 2011
39. jealousy is my middle name park chan-ok 2002
38. a time to live and a time to die hou hsiao-hsien 1985
37. love streams john cassavetes 1984
36. duelle jacques rivette 1976
35. drug war johnnie to 2012
34. flower boy next door 16 episodes 2013
33. workers, peasants jean-marie straub & danielle huillet 2001
32. portrait of madame yuki kenji mizoguchi 1950
31. may they rest in revolt (figures of war) sylvain george 2010
30. the grandmaster wong kar-wai 2013
29. beat street stan latham 1984
28. spring in a small town fei mu 1948
27. meditations on revolution I-V robert fenz 1997-2003
26. ghost in the shell: stand alone complex + 2nd gig 26 + 26 episodes 2002-03 + 2004-05
25. promise of the flesh kim ki-young 1975
24. i don’t want to be a man ernst lubitsch 1918
23. mikey and nicky elaine may 1976
22. running man 175+ episodes 2010-ongoing
21. the house of 72 tenants chor yuen 1973
20. teenage hooker becomes killing machine nam gee-woong 2000
19. coffee prince 17 episodes 2007
18. parvarish manmohan desai 1977
17. local hero bill forsyth 1983
16. fort apache john ford 1948
15. that day, on the beach edward yang 1983
14. from greece peter nestler 1965
13. the nutty professor jerry lewis 1963
12. beautiful life 11 episodes 2000
11. flowers of shanghai hou hsiao-hsien 1998
10. take care of my cat jeong jae-eun 2001
9. king of comedy stephen chow & lik-chi lee 1999
8. a confucian confusion edward yang 1994
7. some came running vincente minnelli 1958
6. the golden thread ritwik ghatak 1965
5. videograms of a revolution harun farocki & andrei ujica 1992
4. manila in the claws of neon lino brocka 1975
3. honey and clover I + II 24 + 12 episodes 2005 + 2006
2. kids on the slope 12 episodes 2012
1. autumn in my heart 16 episodes 2000Read less